Leading article

Robust action needed over Holylands partying

Getting children and young people back into education has been a major challenge for the executive and wider society, a task not made any easier by the sharp increase in virus cases in parts of the north.

In the first two weeks of the new term, more than 60 schools reported positive cases, a number that was not unexpected but a sign of the difficulties that we face in these uncertain times.

It is inevitable the numbers will continue to grow with teachers and principals doing their level best to manage infections and isolation requirements while ensuring that classes keep going.

This is an anxious time for staff and parents, who are understandably worried that any cough or fever in their child could be coronavirus, which can lead to additional pressure on the testing system.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride has written to parents with advice on symptoms and the actions they need to take.

Universities have also been preparing for the return of students with risk assessments carried out and measures put in place to provide a safe environment.

However, while the authorities are taking all the steps necessary to protect young people, there are alarming reports of students in the Holylands area of south Belfast flouting the Covid-19 regulations.

Concerns about anti-social behaviour are nothing new in this district but large numbers of people partying takes on an altogether more disturbing aspect during a pandemic.

Data shows a significant rise in cases among young people, many of whom may experience only mild symptoms but the real fear is that they will spread the virus to older people, who are at risk of severe illness and even death.

It is deeply frustrating for people throughout Northern Ireland but especially in those postcodes which are under even tighter restrictions, to see the rules being ignored in such a reckless and irresponsible way.

Police made two arrests in the Holylands on Monday but it is clear that robust enforcement is needed in the interests of public health.

The university authorities must also play their part in taking a firm approach to students who show little regard for the rules that are in place to protect us all.

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Leading article